3. Environmental sustainability

We have known for decades that the planet is threatened by serious climate problems. Yet this global challenge has not been met with the political seriousness that it deserves. Instead, there is a blind belief that technological advances will solve all of our problems and enable us to continue with the tremendous growth in population and consumption that has characterized the past century.

In The Alternative, we do not believe that environmental and climate problems can be solved with technology alone. These problems are closely related to industrial production and the increasing consumption from ever more people. If we are to avoid undermining nature’s ability to support our life and society and the diversity that exists on earth, we need to transform our way of life so that nature is given more respect. The Alternative believes that there is a need for an efficient and controlled sustainable transition.

A controlled sustainable transition means that we do as much as possible on humanity’s premises because the transition will occur either way. The pressures that we put on nature and its long-term balance are in no way a viable solution to the challenges we currently face. The environment and climate crisis is where action is required today, not tomorrow.

The Alternative wants to put environmental sustainability at the top of the agenda. We will work hard and persistently to phase out the current consumption of fossil fuels by instead using renewable energy sources. At the same time, we must increase the amount of CO2 that is bound in plants and soil, so that the greenhouse effect is reduced and soil fertility increases.

We also want to phase out the use of environmentally hazardous substances. This will be done by initiatives in the EU as well as in Denmark. The Alternative’s ambition is not just to preserve existing natural areas, but to also work to create new, natural areas that can increase biodiversity substantially and support life’s natural evolution on Earth.

A sustainable transition of Denmark is not easy to realize. The process will result in a significant upheaval of our current social structures, and there will be practices in everyday life that we must be ready to give up. That is a fact. In The Alternative, we are in no doubt that the ecological conversion will also lead to new initiatives that create exciting ways of living.

We know for certain that the sooner we act and the better prepared we are for such an upheaval, the better we will be able to get through it, and the brighter our future will look. Citizens and businesses must work with the public sector to find sustainable solutions. We must, in solidarity, make sure to create the frameworks that can help us to change our conduct and our habits.

The individual key issues in The Alternative’s vision for environmental sustainability are as follows:

  • Controlled and effective transition to renewable energy
  • Conversion of the transport system
  • A wild and diverse nature in Denmark
  • Sustainable production and consumption
  • Sustainable agriculture, forestry and fishing with room for nature
  • Strengthened research in sustainability

3.1. Controlled and effective transition to renewable energy

The UN’s climate panel has determined that the world community needs to phase out the use of fossil fuels faster than reserves are running out. Otherwise, we will do lasting damage to the climate. We know that we cannot base the future’s energy supply on oil, coal and gas or the burning of waste.

Burning fossil fuels must be phased out as soon as possible, and investment in exploration and extraction of fossil fuels from new areas must be stopped. There are far more fossil fuels in already known reserves than it is responsible to burn, if the goal of keeping us under a temperature increase of two degrees to be achieved. Therefore, it makes no sense to look for even more, further burdening the environment in the process.

The Alternative therefore thinks that Denmark should refrain from continuing to explore and exploit oil and gas from the Arctic and other vulnerable areas. Similarly, The Alternative believes that Denmark should refrain from the exploration and exploitation of shale gas from underground.

The Alternative will work for an effective and controlled transition of our energy sector to 100% renewable energy within the next 25 years.

Solar power

Solar energy is a field of technology that is developing rapidly, and research is ongoing on more efficient, flexible and economical solutions. Nevertheless, only a fraction of our energy is currently derived from solar energy.

The Alternative believes that there is great potential for further investment in this area, and will work for better conditions for the exploitation of solar energy by increasing support for the establishment of solar cell- and solar heating systems. This will be done by, for example, requiring that all new public buildings incorporate solar energy and by increasing the incentives for installing solar energy systems on existing buildings.

Sustainable waste management

30 years ago, Denmark restructured its waste management from landfills to incineration. We are therefore experts in waste incineration today. But even though our waste incineration is effective, it is not sustainable and is accompanied by a range of problems, such as loss of important resources, environmentally damaging cinder and air pollution. When it comes to organic waste, we can get more energy and value from waste through anaerobic digestion.

Therefore, we urgently have to significantly reduce waste incineration. Instead, we should focus on reusing and recycling materials and products. We can learn a lot from our neighboring countries and from the municipalities that have already transformed their waste management and chosen to focus on biogas. The ambition is that all of our waste will, in the long term, be considered an untapped resource, and that Denmark will be a leader in the field and focus on creating the breeding grounds for the growth of a green industry in the waste sector.

Energy Cooperative Movement for local supply

If Denmark wants to be better at exploiting renewable energy sources in the future, there is a need for an advanced and efficient energy system and distribution network. Around 40% of current electricity production comes from a few key coal plants, whereas The Alternative’s vision of a renewable energy system is based on a number of decentralized renewable energy producers.

In order to support investment in locally based energy generation, The Alternative wants to support a sustainable energy cooperative movement. Just as many communities have set up jointly owned waterworks, we will strengthen the opportunities for communities to invest in the establishment and operation of joint, sustainable energy production and energy infrastructure. This will be achieved by providing favorable conditions for cooperative associations as well as by making it possible to reinvest green taxes. These conditions naturally presuppose that the local associations meet a number of criteria and requirements for the sustainability of energy production.

We are convinced that local ownership can help to make it much more attractive to disseminate wind turbines and solar panels in the Danish countryside, for example. It can contribute to greater local engagement with the environment.

3.2. Conversion of the transport system

Most of us rely on our transport system to get through the day. In Denmark, we have well-functioning infrastructure and public transport. This is obviously both convenient and good for our mobility, but from a sustainability perspective, there is room for improvement.

The transport system is almost entirely based on fossil fuels and is thus responsible for a considerable share of total CO2 emissions.

Therefore, The Alternative wants to work for a traffic policy that both aims to promote behavior that reduces surplus traffic, and establishes an efficient transport system based on renewable energy sources.

Road pricing

In The Alternative, we will work for the implementation of nationwide road pricing. The technology is ready, so a road pricing concept should therefore be able to be rolled out over the country relatively quickly. Road pricing provides a powerful tool to regulate traffic, both in terms of congestion and environmental problems. The latest systems are incredibly advanced and can both distinguish between urban and rural areas, and determine an individual vehicle’s specific environmental impact.

Focus on public transport

The Alternative wants an ambitious focus on an expanded and sustainable public transport system that can reduce CO2 emissions, solve congestion problems in cities, and reduce car use in general. First, we want to make public transport attractive by strengthening its links to other modes of transportation. This can be done through the establishment of several park-and-ride stations, better opportunities to take bikes on trains, and by lowering ticket prices. Second, we want to make public transport sustainable and completely based on renewable energy. Although some of the money can be found in the introduction of a nationwide system of road pricing, there will be talk about investment. We believe, however, that the investment will pay off in the long term.

Biofuels in freight transportation

Heavy freight transportation accounts for substantial CO2 emissions through the use of diesel power. This should be drastically reduced by changing the fuel. The obvious alternative is biogas. A transition to biogas on a large scale requires a waste sorting system, based on an effective separation of green organic material, which, under controlled and centralized conditions, must be gasified along with manure from farming. Manure should be used exclusively in a transitional phase, up until a conversion to organic farming with a smaller and more sustainable meat production.

In this way, we can effectively concentrate and exploit the natural gasification from our organic materials – a gasification that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere. The result is a biogas that is an efficient fuel that we can use in large vehicles. We will start the implementation process in the public sector with buses and refuse trucks. Later, it will be expanded to all trucks through a phase-in plan that will introduce an increasing number of requirements for the transportation industry’s use of biogas.

This conversion will take place alongside a phase-out of natural gas heating in buildings in favor of geothermal and district heating. In this way, natural gas can be prioritized for heavy transport. In the long term, we will begin to transfer the technology to international transport, such as airplanes and ships, which is responsible for a large proportion of the environmental impact from the transport industry.

In Denmark, we already have both the knowledge and technology in the field of biogas, and there is a great opportunity for us to become a leading player in a new green market.

3.3. A wild and diverse nature in Denmark

For The Alternative, it is of central importance to make a determined effort to regain a diverse and wild nature in Denmark. We want a society that provides space for biodiversity and the wildness that is needed for evolution’s creativity to unfold.

Globally, biodiversity is in rapid decline. Because of man’s behavior, we increasingly see species disappear and ecosystems collapse at a much faster rate than new ones can emerge.

Denmark is no exception. It is the most intensively farmed land in the world. Plowing, fertilization, drainage and spraying of our soil has led to a huge decline in biodiversity in which our landscape was formerly rich. Intensive farming at sea has also polluted our marine ecosystems. Overfishing, mining and unsustainable fishing practices have put further strain on marine life.

It is so bad in the countryside in Denmark that many of Denmark’s natural habitats and species are on the verge of disappearing from our country. Even if we convert to 100% organic farming and provide more space for nature, it is unfortunately not enough to stop the loss of biodiversity in Denmark. The Alternative will work actively and diligently to protect the few good natural areas we have left, and restore the ecosystems that have broken down.

It is The Alternative’s goal and priority to stop the decline of biodiversity in Denmark by 2020.

The Alternative also sees a great need to strengthen research on Danish biodiversity and to ensure better monitoring of it, so that we can more accurately keep track of, and support the preservation of nature.

There is also a great need for more knowledge about nature amongst members of the Danish population. At The Alternative, we believe that it makes sense to start with the children. Therefore, The Alternative will work to promote outdoor education at all grade levels in primary and lower secondary school. This can ensure a broader basic understanding and knowledge of nature.

From national forestry to national natural forests

Although the state owns large forested areas in Denmark, the forests’ biodiversity is severely restricted. The primary reasons for this is that the desire for a high yield of good timber means that forests have been drained, that dead wood has been removed, and that there are too few large grazers. The Alternative will therefore work for a shift from national forestry to national natural forests, where no form of forestry activity can take place.

The transition will require one-time investments to restore natural hydrology and to support the release of large forest grazers, such as the European Bison, which can help to create the clearings and natural dynamics in the forests that are so badly needed.

Targeted action for marine nature

Only a very small part of the Danish marine waters are currently protected. The Alternative will work to set up a number of reserves in the sea, where marine nature and wildlife can expand as freely and naturally as possible.

 The Alternative will work for the restoration of marine nature. A large part of the Danish reefs have disappeared due to decades of rock fishing and bottom trawling. Reefs are also called the sea’s oases because more animals and plants live here than anywhere else in the sea. Stone fishing is forbidden today, but important nature has disappeared to the detriment of biodiversity and fish stock recovery options. The Alternative will work to ensure that more marine restoration projects are developed as a tool to rebuild fish stocks and increase the biodiversity of the sea.

 Sand and gravel is extracted from the Danish marine waters. Much of this extraction takes place close to land and sometimes collides with the inshore fishing. The Alternative will work to change the mining laws so that sand and gravel is not mined in fishing banks and fishing areas, and so that extraction occurs in areas where the least damage to nature will occur.

More diverse natural areas

The biodiversity of Denmark is very limited and continues to fall. The Alternative will work to protect the few diverse natural areas we have left in Denmark, and work for larger areas of contiguous wild nature, since we appreciate a landscape marked by diversity and healthy ecosystems where natural dynamics can unfold.

 In Denmark, we have some of the best farmland in the world. The good land should to be cultivated and used for both local sales and exports, but there must also be room for a Danish landscape rich in biological diversity and beauty that Danes can enjoy and benefit from year round. The Danish Planning Act is unique, and we must protect it, but the law must be improved so that there are areas in Denmark that have biodiversity as the main objective. The Planning Act and the Nature Protection Act must be revised so that planning becomes simpler and more efficient, so land cannot, as is the case today, simply grow into and out of protection.

The expansion of natural areas and the removal of poor farmland for natural purposes should predominantly occur around the few valuable natural areas we have left, and around the small natural areas that are protected today. In this way, we ensure that the endangered species can spread from existing natural areas to new ones.

There will be a need for local stewardship of nature restoration and nature management, so it is important that the public largely cooperates with private landowners.

In the cities, it is also important to get a richer and more diverse natural landscape. Here it is possible to create an interplay between people and a diverse natural landscape. As there are no production requirements for introducing nature into the city, there is room for wild plants and animals. It only requires that we dare to give up some of our control of the green areas and let them be wild. More nature in our cities will ensure that more Danes have a greater knowledge and understanding of nature.

3.4. Sustainable production and consumption

The global population increases year after year. At the same time, more and more people worldwide manage to escape poverty. This results in increased global consumption.

We in the Western world have become accustomed to consume and throw away without thinking about what it means for our shared world. In the world’s oceans, the currents have collected large islands of plastic waste, and many people in the poor parts of the world live wretchedly by picking valuable parts out of the waste lying in landfills. Denmark is currently one of the countries in the EU that produce the most waste per inhabitant.

All of this is at odds with economists’ and politicians’ constant message that we should consume more, so that we can create growth and new jobs. Of course we should allow for more meaningful jobs, but we should not consume more.

Rather, we must consume less. Where we now strive for growth at any price, we should instead do what we do best – namely, use our heads and hands wisely. There is a need for us to switch our production and consumption to a circular model and away from the linear model that dominates today. In a circular economy, responsibility lies in recycling waste as new raw materials, as well as in extending the life of products through effective recycling. In such a model, raw materials are used again and again instead of being downgraded to pollution through waste incineration.

The Alternative will work to promote circular and sustainable production and consumption. We will work to promote initiatives that make it easy for individuals and businesses to make the right choices in relation to changing our infertile consumer culture.

Eat green

A person does not need more protein than that found in 300 grams of meat a week. As it stands right now, we consume on average about 240 grams of meat a day. If we bring the total meat consumption down to a level equivalent to 100 grams of meat a day per person, it will have numerous benefits. Such a transformation will free large areas of the Danish landscape, which could be used for natural landscapes or plant production and is far less nutrient-demanding. Moreover, reduced meat consumption contributes to a more diverse nature, a more sustainable agriculture, and increased public health.

As such, The Alternative will work to implement nationwide campaigns for more vegetables in the Danish diet. We will propose the implementation of a weekly, nationwide “eat green day”, which will initially be put into effect in all public institutions in the hope that it can become a popularly accepted event.

Demand for greater durability and transparency of products

We will work to ensure that all consumer products are subject to mandatory labeling that clearly states the product’s real environmental impact, and informs about the product’s origin and production process, as well as whether the working conditions where the product was produced meet the requirements for a good working environment. Labelling must therefore be able to communicate the ethical basis for product creation.

Labeling should both convey the real environmental and social costs associated with the product, as well as the health and purity of the product. This must be based on an easy-to-read scale that shows the product’s sustainability score. Such a system would result in completely new and better competitive conditions for sustainably produced goods that today cannot compete on price alone.

Finally, we will work for a law that prohibits the planned failure of a product as a turnover strategy practiced by the producers. Defects and failure mechanisms must not be part of a product’s design and fabrication.

Active use of deposit systems

We have a well-functioning deposit system, which for several years has worked for plastic bottles, glass and metal packaging. The deposit system is an effective instrument to promote recycling and reduce resource consumption. We will promote the development and dissemination of a deposit system that can handle many more product types. For a start, the current system should be expanded to include bags and electronics. We will work to ensure that producers take their share of responsibility for the development of the system.

Perhaps in the future we should, to a greater degree, rent rather than own our various consumer goods. This could help to ensure that manufactures improve the quality of products and think about recycling and reuse already at the design stage. Perhaps it should even be the manufacturer’s responsibility to ensure that the old product is returned to the company.

Global resource tax

An environmentally correct price of raw materials is a prerequisite for market mechanisms to function properly, and for resources to be efficiently allocated. Effective steps towards global economic sustainability therefore requires proper pricing of resources and raw materials.

A global tax on resources that are pushing commodity prices up, in a rent equivalent to the price of producing/recycling raw materials with sustainable methods, will create a more prudent allocation of precious resources. It will also make it economically viable to recycle many materials that today are either incinerated or put in a landfill. Overall, such a tax would be an enormously powerful tool to promote a sustainable global economy.

Recognizing that the international community currently lacks the necessary political structures to implement such a system, The Alternative will work for the creation of the necessary knowledge of how such interventions can be done in the long term, and for the thorough examination of the effects of various scenarios. The proceeds from such a tax could possibly go to the world community and be used to promote a sustainable transition and global justice.  The optimal use of the proceeds, however, will be a natural part of the study that must necessarily precede such an extensive global change of course.

Ecological footprint

As a consumer, it can be nearly impossible to find out how large one’s ecological footprint is. How much does an individual’s consumption affect the environment?

In The Alternative, we are convinced that if we give people easily accessible information on the volume of their ecological footprint, people can be motivated to change.

The Alternative therefore wants to invest in the development and promotion of tools that make it easy and simple to see which behavior change makes the most sense in environmental terms. Is the best thing to do for the environment to drop one´s flying habits? Or should people give priority to buying organic? Or is it better to invest in an electric bike so people can leave the car behind when they go shopping?

3.5. Sustainable agriculture, forestry and fishing

Denmark’s most important natural resources have always been our fertile land, our forests and our gardens. The goal of The Alternative’s agriculture, forestry and fisheries policy is to create interaction between society’s need for natural resources and a diverse natural environment. Therefore, we will work for greater integration between people and nature. Agriculture, forestry, fishing, human settlements and nature should interact instead of being separate entities.

If present and future generations are to have a safe food supply, it is essential to conserve soil fertility and expand sustainability practices in agriculture.

In Denmark, we have some of the best farmland in the world, so of course it should be cultivated and used both for local sale and export. We have also some of the most inventive and creative farmers, which means that our industrial agriculture is effective, high-tech and rich.

Despite the Danish agricultural sectors´ success, industrial agriculture is facing some huge challenges. The dependence on expensive fossil fuels and fertilizer, and increased global competition is pushing farmers to increase productivity to survive. The result is increased pollution of our environment and a loss of biological diversity. This is compromising animal welfare and the environment.

The Alternative will work to promote organic production as an alternative to resource-intensive meat production. For meat and milk production, the focus will be on getting more animals grazing freerange in environmentally planned production systems.

There is also a need for innovation that challenges monoculture as a form of production. It will require research and development in the long term, but will allow more opportunity to harvest biologically mature crops to interact with more complex landscapes.

We will work towards agriculture that can supply us with healthy raw material. There must focus on quality rather than quantity. Farms must be smaller and employ more people.

Our vision is that Danish agriculture will be part of the cultural landscape, rich in biological diversity and beauty. This way, Danes can enjoy it and benefit from it year round.

Pesticides and fertilizers will no longer be used in agriculture and forest production. The Alternative will work for 100% organic forestry.

There is no need for plantations with invasive species in Denmark. The need for wood from coniferous forest can be met by imports from Sweden, where pine forests grow bigger and better. Forestries will focus on indigenous species and mainly deciduous trees. They are better suited for the Danish climate and soil, and they provide better conditions for biodiversity.

The state’s forest land should preferably be designated for natural forests without forestry. Some forests can be commercially exploited to bind CO2 from the atmosphere in biomass. In other areas, we can experiment with new, innovative ways of producing food on a large scale, such as forest gardening.

Fishing in Denmark has in recent decades been marked by larger and fewer fishing vessels that catch far more fish at a time. This damages not only the fish stocks below, but also the communities along the Danish coast because most fishing quotas are now held by very few people. The Alternative would like to strengthen low-impact coastal fishing and limit the big super trawlers’ work.

Conversion to 100% organic production before 2040

The Alternative will work for the transformation of agriculture, so that it is 100% organic by 2040. 100% organic farming, through reduced consumption of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, will have significant benefits for the environment. A positive effect will also be felt on the population and on public health when we have healthier, more nutrient-rich and cleaner vegetables.

A conversion to 100% organic production can be supported, for example, by exempting ECO labeled goods from VAT. A rise in VAT on non-organic products can also be a solution. As these proposals may be perceived as a distortion of the market and thus be opposed by the EU, it may be necessary for us to team up with other EU countries to push this forward.

If 100% organic production is going to be able to provide high enough dividends to both feed the Danish population and contribute to exports, there is a need for innovation in cultivation methods so that crop production is less dependent on the supply of nutrients from livestock production. Moreover, we must be even better at avoiding the leaching of nutrients from the fields and at reclaiming phosphorus and nitrogen. The Alternative will strengthen innovation  in both areas.

This restructuring will undoubtedly affect the companies that currently live on processing Danish produce. It is important that we address this challenge and create the best possible framework for the restructuring, which could also lead to new and exciting opportunities for the industry – especially in export markets.

It is also important that the rules on the handling and packaging of organic products do not pose a daunting barrier that stands in the way of the transition to organic in practice. It must, in other words, be made easier for manufacturers, distributors and retailers of organic products to provide them to the consumer.

More local farming

It should be possible to subsist on less and more labor-intensive agriculture. Few currently can afford to buy a farm, as the debt burden is often massive. The Alternative will fight for a specific subsidy scheme for small farmers, which will result in more jobs in rural areas, as well as an ecological focus and a greater variety of crops.

We will work to implement a system where a public fund buys indebted farms. This could be done in cooperation with the Financial Stability Fund and banks focused on investments in agriculture. The acquired land must be sustainably managed and based on organic food production.

The Alternative will also work to relax the regulatory framework for production and processing, in the case of small-scale production for local marketing. Bureaucracy can be reduced without compromising food safety.

Supporting low-impact fishing

Fishing has, over many years, become increasingly intense, with a trend towards larger and heavier vessels that bottom trawl. This development of the fleet has been at the expense of the inshore, low-impact fishing practices that are better for both fish stocks, the marine nature, and the local communities along the Danish coasts. The Alternative will work to support low-impact coastal fishing. This will be achieved through a redistribution of the Danish quota to this type of fishing, the creation of a public brand for sustainable fisheries, ensuring that any public procurement as far as possible comes from sustainable fisheries, and ensuring that access to certain areas is subject to fishing with low-impact gear.

Low-impact fishing has numerous benefits for nature. Due to the reduced impact on the seabed, low-impact fishing boats can fish virtually without discarding fish. Fuel consumption is also significantly lower than that of large bottom trawlers. Low-impact fishing also creates more jobs for the smaller vessels in the primary fisheries and strengthens small coastal communities from where the fisheries arise.

3.6. Strengthened research in sustainability

The UN climate panel has made it clear that concerns about changes in the global climate are real and serious. The Alternative believes that it is time that we begin to look these challenges in the eyes and search for solutions. We therefore want an action-oriented research focus on solutions to the problems we face. The Alternative wants to develop a knowledge platform, where people with expertise in relevant areas are gathered to conduct research and experiments that can tell us something qualified about the opportunities we have to secure the future of Denmark.

The ambition does not stop here. We need to spur ingenuity, enterprise, knowledge-sharing and collaboration across sectors. We need to institutionalize the informal knowledge that can arise in collaboration with interested, active citizens. This means that the population should be far more closely involved in the development of new solutions. Citizen must not only have access to general knowledge, but rather have the opportunity to acquire expert knowledge about complex issues in society. Finally, citizen must also have access to a platform for action, with the possibility of becoming an active co-creator of future solutions.

National laboratory for sustainable transition

If we really want to follow through with the sustainable transition of Denmark, there is a need for research and controlled experimentation. Therefore, The Alternative will establish a national laboratory for sustainable transition. The purpose of the laboratory will be to conduct research focused on the transformation of society. The laboratory must be a creative, imaginative and curious institution, where action research makes up a significant component in the creation of solutions for a sustainable transition. Unlike traditional universities, where success is measured by the number of scientific publications, the center’s success will be measured on the basis of the impact and quality of the readjustment initiatives that are implemented in cooperation with citizens, businesses and public authorities. It is important that the description of purpose makes it clear that the work of the laboratory has to go far beyond the general knowledge on sustainability.